Nikkei Narratives

Echoes of Peru and Japan greeted AMS on a visit to TONO by Akira Back.

TONO by Akira Back is a dining destination where Japanese finesse meets Peruvian flair, a creation of the renowned Chef of the same name. Drawing inspiration from his heritage and his mother’s artistic influence, the restaurant is adorned with her artworks, adding a deeply personal touch. Leading the culinary team is Chef Hyungmin Bae, who brings over a decade of experience, embodying the innovative spirit of Nikkei cuisine that is at the heart of the venue.

In the inviting reception area, a large, round window framed the city’s lights. A central neon sign dominated the space, surrounded by elegant vases and lush green plants that softened the modern aesthetic. Plush blue sofas paired with orange cushions offered a cosy nook for private conversations.

Wandering through the dining area before settling into our al fresco seats, we were greeted by a kaleidoscope of colours. Above us, a modern sculpture wound upwards like branches reaching for the sun. The blend of contemporary design and natural inspiration gave the place a feeling of being both new and timelessly welcoming.

Scintillating Starters

Our culinary journey took a welcome turn when Chef Hyungmin Bae himself arrived at our table. His radiant smile was as inviting as the array of dishes he began to introduce. With enthusiasm, he painted the picture of TONO’s vision, blending Japanese precision with Peruvian passion in every creation. As he finished his introduction, the Crab Salad appeared before us. This delicate lacework of flavours cradled sweet whispers of the sea, with the Nikkei mayo acting as a gentle tide against the playful crackle of tobiko.

As we moved to the Salmon Tataki, it was like savouring the sunset itself, the seared edges a dusky blush against the cool, pink centre, all dressed in a truffle ponzu that painted each bite with the richness of twilight.

The Nikkei Ceviche unravelled as a tapestry of the ocean’s bounty, with the sesame ponzu dressing drizzling over the salmon like the first rain of spring, invoking a symphony of delicate blossoms on the palate.

Shared Delights

As we soaked in the vibrant atmosphere, the hot starters made their entrance. The Akira Back Pizza unfolded as an avant-garde masterpiece, its crisp corn base a canvas for the vivid splashes of cholo and aioli, the parmesan dusting reminiscent of a light snowfall on a vibrant mosaic.

The Jumbo Prawn commanded its own spotlight, each bite an extravagant affair. The prawn itself, gloriously plump and perfectly seared, swam in a decadent pool of dynamite sauce which presented an explosive blend of spices, clinging to the succulent flesh. The rich, oceanic sweetness melded beautifully with the fiery sauce, compelling us to indulge in just one more bite.

The Bao Wagyu was a tender embrace, the Wagyu’s rich marbling melting like a kiss on the lips, the bulgogi sauce murmuring sweet nothings of savoury delight. And as for the Bao Lobster, it was as if we were savouring the essence of a summer feast, the aji dynamite sauce, the culinary equivalent of fireworks against the night sky.

Everything we encountered made it clear that Tono offered an enchantment of the senses. The plates with their intricate Incan designs cradling impeccable cuisine. Gold cutlery, complete with rests, added a touch of elegance. Service flowed seamlessly. The whole event was akin to observing an athlete in their prime – every move a study in disciplined excellence. It felt like a masterclass in hospitality, from tableware to taste.

Signature Mains

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the exquisite main courses. We began with the Wagyu Tajima Striploin, its seared edges hinting at the careful tending of flames. The beef was tender, each slice parting effortlessly beneath our knives, its richness unadorned but for the occasional burst of sea salt that we found ourselves chasing with each bite. The side of celeriac puree was a gentle contrast, its creaminess an understated backdrop to the robust beef, while the furikake brought a discreet crunch, a nod to the sea’s bounty.

The Arroz con Mariscos was a hearty embrace, a dish that spoke of the sea without pretence. The grains of rice, tinged with the golden hue of saffron, were the perfect carriers for the delicate prawn, tender squid and open mussels, each spoonful a celebration of simple ocean flavours. The subtle richness of the garlic cream bound the elements together in a dish that felt like a homecoming, each bite a step closer to the heart of coastal cooking.

Outside on the terrace, our evening was filled with lively chatter and levity. To our left, a group of friends shared stories and laughs. To our right, international visitors savoured their meals, clearly awed by the distinctive creations. Meanwhile, our server kept topping up our water and serving creative mocktails that added a refreshing touch to our lively discussions.

Lush Sweets

As the evening’s final act, the desserts arrived and with them, a sense of anticipation. We indulged in the Matcha Basque Cheesecake, its earthy green tones giving way to a creamy heart, each forkful a balance of sweet and subtle bitterness, the pistachio ice cream alongside it a cool, nutty confidant to the rich cake. Then came the Chocolatono, a study in textures, its streusel chocolate base supporting a velvety praline centre, a dish that spoke the secrets of cocoa fields in distant lands, each spoonful a richer chapter than the last. The Coco Meringue was a cloud-like fantasy, a soft bed of sweetness that melted effortlessly on the tongue, the yuzu sorbet cutting through with a citrus-kissed clarity. For those who seek more than a meal, TONO by Akira Back is an unmissable destination. Here, the artistry on your plate rivals the art on the walls, and every service is a performance, delivered with finesse that transcends the ordinary. Head to TONO to be transported, to dine where every bite is part of a grander spectacle, a place that doesn’t just feed the body but nourishes the soul. ✤